Bill Gates Champions First U.S. Advanced Nuclear Plant in Wyoming Set for 2030, Aiming for 550 MW Peak

June 14, 2024
2 mins read
Kemmerer, Wyoming will soon be home to the most advanced nuclear facility in the world. Photo Credit: GatesNotes
Kemmerer, Wyoming will soon be home to the most advanced nuclear facility in the world. Photo Credit: GatesNotes

In the U.S. state of Wyoming, construction has begun on the first nuclear power plant by the U.S. company Terrapower. The groundbreaking has already taken place, but there is no building permit yet. Microsoft founder Bill Gates traveled to the town of Kemmerer for the groundbreaking ceremony. Gates is one of the founders and main investors of Terrapower. According to Gates, the plant is set to go online in 2030 and become “the most advanced nuclear facility in the world.”

The reactor that Terrapower plans is a Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) cooled with sodium. It is expected to have a capacity of 345 megawatts, which can be increased to 550 megawatts. The salt will be heated in the reactor, called the Nuclear Island, and then directed into a storage facility called Energy Island. The heated salt will be withdrawn from this as needed to generate steam, which in turn drives a turbine. Sodium has a much higher boiling point than water, which increases safety. Additionally, some construction components that a water-cooled reactor requires can be omitted, such as a complex containment structure, a cooling water circuit, and redundant safety systems. According to the construction company Bechtel, this reduces the amount of construction material needed and shortens the construction time.

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There is no building permit yet. However, according to Gates, the responsible authority, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), has accepted the application for a building permit for review. They will review it, and once approved, construction of the reactor can begin. This could take a few years, Gates wrote. In the meantime, Terrapower will build the non-nuclear part of the facility. Terrapower announced the construction of the nuclear power plant in 2021. The MSR will be built in Kemmerer in the southwest of Wyoming. The site will be the coal plant that is set to be decommissioned in 2025.

The Natrium demonstration project in Kemmerer, Wyoming, USA, began work on Monday,  June 10, which the company claims is the “first” advanced nuclear reactor project under construction in the Western Hemisphere. “The Natrium reactor is more than a design, it’s a plant coming to life that will support both the clean energy transition and our historic energy communities,” said Chris Levesque, the company’s CEO. “Our innovative Natrium technology will provide dispatchable carbon-free energy, gigawatt-scale energy storage, and long-term jobs to the Lincoln County community,” he added.

The company has reported that the construction of the plant is expected to take five years and will require approximately 1,600 workers at the peak of the project. Once operational, the company estimates that 250 people will support daily activities on-site, including security. When completed, it will be a fully operational commercial power plant. According to TerraPower, it is being built near a disused coal power plant and is the “only” coal-to-nuclear conversion project under development in the world.

Specifically, the project features a 345-megawatt (MW) fast reactor cooled by sodium with a molten salt-based energy storage system. As detailed by the company, the storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MW of power when needed, which is enough to supply about 400,000 homes. “The energy storage capability allows the plant to integrate seamlessly with renewable resources and is the only advanced reactor design with this unique feature.,” the company emphasized.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates, Founder of Terrpower and the former CEO of Microsoft highlighted, “I’ve been waiting for this day for nearly 20 years: Today, we broke ground on the first-ever Natrium plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming. This next-generation nuclear power plant is a big step towards safe, abundant, zero-carbon energy,” in a post.  “I believe that TerraPower’s next-generation nuclear energy will power the future of our nation—and the world,” he asserted.

Sunita Somvanshi

With over two decades of dedicated service in the state environmental ministry, this seasoned professional has cultivated a discerning perspective on the intricate interplay between environmental considerations and diverse industries. Sunita is armed with a keen eye for pivotal details, her extensive experience uniquely positions her to offer insightful commentary on topics ranging from business sustainability and global trade's environmental impact to fostering partnerships, optimizing freight and transport for ecological efficiency, and delving into the realms of thermal management, logistics, carbon credits, and energy transition. Through her writing, she not only imparts valuable knowledge but also provides a nuanced understanding of how businesses can harmonize with environmental imperatives, making her a crucial voice in the discourse on sustainable practices and the future of industry.

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